Waiting for HiFi

I have been really enjoying the improvements to user interface/experience of Spotify apps. I am also optimistic about the accelerating pace of improvements:

“The future of Desktop – As mentioned above, this change to the Desktop UI gives us the ability to move faster in bringing you new improvements, features and functionality — so you can expect to see continued improvements to the client in the weeks and months to come.”

The problem is that the sound quality remains underwhelming. Even at the highest resolution (320 Kbs) the sound seems to me markedly inferior to what I get from Apple Music 256 Kbs AAC files. 

Qobuz lossless files sound even better, but the apps are much less practical for daily use and less conductive to discovery. Tidal is fine but sits in a weird spot: sounds maybe a little less great than Qobuz, but the app is less useful than Apple/Spotify. Amazon HD is not available in my country.

So now all I have left to do is wait for Spotify HiFi. The problems are that it is coming only “later this year” (and we are still in April) and in “select markets” (meanwhile Spotify’s recent track-record of expanding new features internationally has been less than stellar).  

They promised that they “will have more details to share soon” but this was 44 days ago! (What they understand by “soon”?)

Finally, we are left to wonder if Spotify lossless implementation will sound great or less-than great, such as Deezer’s

Until Spotify HiFi is actually launched and evaluated we have the right to remain skeptical. Apple Music released a superior sounding product nearly six years ago and during all these period Spotify did little to close the gap. (Actually there was some improvement in loudness levels in 2017, but this was obviously not enough to sound competitive against 256 AAC and lossless FLAC).

(Until a few years ago the highest quality setting at Spotify desktop was called “extreme” instead of “very high” as it is now. That was funny.)

But of course, it would make very little sense to Spotify release a HiFi product and be careless about implementation, even more so since they are focusing on “CD level” quality and wisely not entering the distracting battles of 192-96 kHz/24 bit/MQA/360 features…

There is also the small question of how Apple will respond to this initiative. It has a long tradition of not only supporting lossless and hi-resolution music but also encouraging labels to provide high quality original files (Apple Digital Masters). On the other hand Apple insists that its 256 Kbs AAC files “are virtually indistinguishable from the original 24 bit studio masters”, so the launch of different audio tier would be a drastic change of messaging.

Let’s wait…

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